While on a heritage tour with an Italo-American family who had come to meet their Italian relatives, we spent some time with their family near the tiny hilltop village of S. Giorgio la Molara in the province of Benevento.
This is a vast farming region of rolling hills and an immense checker-board effect is created by the colors of the crops: predominant are the powder blue of the sky, the rich browns of the tilled fields and the grey-greens of olive, tobacco and corn, with golden necklaces of tabacco neatly hanging to dry on wooden racks.
At first glance it’s an idyllic scene, with sheep grazing in the meadows, far from the drama of Naples or the exhaltation of the Amalfi Coast. But it’s a stark, spartan place, where in the early part of the last century lives were torn apart by back-breaking labor, famine and emigration and where even today familes live isolated lives highlighted only by births, baptisms, weddings and funerals.
As we travelled through the countryside, huge turbines harvested the Autumn winds and I reflected that nothing here goes to waste. And then I was struck by how this stark landscape, viewed from the air, might seem like some titanic game of chess, with the huge windmills posing as pawns on an awesome and endless chessboard.